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Pub Closures

From Kathy A

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Driving though town last night and noticed all the metal shutters on the Inn on the Bridge - what a sad sight to see and a sign of the changing times. Any news on what might be happening next?

From Andrew B

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Shoulder closed it's doors last week, a post by the Landlord on Facebook:

Everyone at the Shoulder would like to thank all the people of Hebden that have supported the pub since we took over in 2003. I'm afraid that due to general rising prices, coupled with the extortionate amount of money pubs like ours have to pay the PubCo's for beer (100% more than a free-house like the Trades or Sports!) and fewer people drinking out, we have had no option and have closed the pub. It is a sad day, and we are sorry that we can't keep your local open. We wanted to provide a pub that you could come to and feel safe, relaxed and enjoy the company of family and friends, and provide you with great food to boot - I really hope we managed to achieve that. We wish everyone the best and hope with all our hearts that whatever happens to the Shoulder, it will will be run in the future with all of you in mind. (18 January at 10:26)

I'm sure there will be more victims yet.


From Andrew Hall

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Thanks for the information. There are a number of pub operating companies and breweries who may well be interested in either or both properties.

I have today contacted Wetherspoons and I know of several breweries who are looking to expand their pub trade.

Let's hope both businesses can continue.


From Michael Piggott

Thursday, 27 January 2011

It is indeed very sad to see the accelerating pub closures, especially given the central role pubs have long played in British social life.

A 'dead' pub is also visually offensive; in our town, we have to add to pub closures the sight of boarded up shops. It gives an impression of a dying town - very depressing.

The greed of the pubco's is one major reason this is happening; many smokers would argue that the smoking ban has also played its part. As a non-smoker, I agree; there is no reason why pubs should not be allowed a smoking room, so long as it is adequately ventilated. I believe in freedom of choice!

Also, because booze is very cheap in supermarkets, and with inflation rising faster than wages, it becomes inevitable that people will exercise the little choice they have to drink more cheaply at home.

Such is the logic of the capitalist economic system!


From Billy Painter

Thursday, 27 January 2011

I was also very shocked to see the shutters up on the Inn on The Bridge when I went past last night, and I'm even more shocked and saddened to hear about the closure of the Shoulder of Mutton.

It's extremely sad to see so many local pubs disappearing due to the current climate. Just a trip along Burnley Road from Hebden Bridge to Halifax indicates how many pubs are struggling and therefore having to close for business. Having just the Dusty Miller left in Mytholmroyd really is a sad state of affairs, and I can't see the situation getting any better unfortunately.

It may be cheaper and more convenient to buy from supermarkets, but in my opinion there's nothing like drinking in a local boozer. The inflation in prices certainly won't hold me and my friends back and I hope others are able to support their local too.


From Michael Piggott

Friday, 28 January 2011

A bit of info for Billy Painter: the Dusty Miller is not the only pub in Mytholmroyd: just past the station on the right is the Shoulder of Mutton, a great old traditional-type pub with a good beer selection and excellent value meals.

Also, if you have C.I.U. membership eg of the Blue Pig at Midgehole or any working men's club, the Mytholmroyd Working Men's Club is another excellent watering hole.


From Paul D

Friday, 28 January 2011

I think if we got a Weatherspoon's we'd see a few more pubs closing as they'd be unable to compete on price. But no pub is a permanent fixture, some need to up their game. Who can point out the sites of three we've lost: the Neptune, Bull and White Horse? Frequenting pubs is the only solution, but the whole culture of the town has changed, it's clear to me that tourism distorts culture, commuters can hollow out towns and villages, but good pubs (like the Swan, Wharf, Fox, Albert etc.) can only survive if they get a little support form those who live here. The Hole shows how a little creativity and energy can revitalise a pub and the wine bar is a stoic example of how to overcome supermarket pressures, we're very very lucky to have the pubs that we do. Midgley - a village without a pub, is my vision of hell, it seems to be populated mostly by salesmen in lemon short sleaved shirts, a dry souless place, so we need to use 'em or lose 'em - it's simple really.

From Andrew Hall

Friday, 28 January 2011

Couldn't agree more, Paul. There's no point in campaigning, and writing to newspapers and forums, if all you do then is go home and open a bottle of wine you've bought from Sainsburys. Pubs only close bcause they're not viable, and they're usually not viable because they are not being supported.

Regarding Wetherspoons, I don't think that the size of either our town, or the Inn on the Bridge is appropriate for them, and they have, I'm told, put a bid in for the White Hart in Tod - far more suitable.


From Billy Painter

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Apologies Michael, you're quite right. It was late at night when I read the initial message and I read it as 'The Shoulder of Mutton' rather than 'The Shoulder'. I agree that it's a lovely little pub with good food too.

From Elaine Blay

Saturday, 29 January 2011

How sad I am to read that the Inn on the Bridge and the Shoulder of Mutton have closed. As a regular visitor to lovely Hebden from Manchester to visit my daughters who live there, I have spent many happy and sunny days sat outside the Shoulder. Its a sign of the times am afraid. The breweries have a lot to answer to its happening everywhere the recession will not only affect the pubs but also the cafes and restaurants and shops. Please support your local town.

From Ali Miles

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Shoulder was never short of customers, although often short of a range of beers and wine; the food was supposed to be good, but time of availability very short. The Inn on the Bridge changed its clientele, but again, no decent beers. Greedy pub owners may have contributed. Both pubs are eyesores now in the centre of Hebden Bridge. Only today, I saw a group of puzzled walkers at lunchtime hanging around outside; another group were later to be seen coming out of the Hole. Is there not some enterprising soul out there who could buy these buildings and run them as free houses? And will the White Lion be next - no beer, no customers?

From Justin P (Hole in t'Wall)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Hebden pub closures haven't stopped yet...

Our own trade has dropped on some weeks over the last 6 months by over 70% in the last year, at T'hole, and everywhere else also. The other pubs are just too polite to tell you that..... We'll keep trying hard to make our pub interesting enough with bands, open mics, jive dancing, arts, knitting etc... but to be honest the whole of Hebden Bridge is slowly becoming a "Ghost Town" of its former self, the number of weekend drinkers, and more so weekly and social drinkers is diminished. I have the 3 Monkeys in Tod, and that trade is increasing... not decreasing, so its got to be a relatively Hebden specific issue.

I acquired the pub because Hebden needed another social meeting point for like minded musicians and banter.

What is happening to Hebden? Where is the eclectic, artistic, argumentative audience of old? Maybe over time, they have been chased away. This maybe the new Hebden... where people prefer rather than despise the X-factor and regularly go shopping at Tesco.. rather than tuther way round as of old. That's not good for the infrastructure and future of the town...

Get yer banjo's out, get out and see a band, meet new people and argue about politics... ie get out for a local pint.

We have two local breweries in Bridestones and Little Valley, help them out too. This is Yorkshire home of beeorr..

Please help your local this week and pop out for a pint. Or at least take some photos for the history books..


From Phil M

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

I'm sure the Shoulder will rise again based on its position. It needs a good owner/manager to take it on..

Same with Inn on the Bridge but the main problem with that place [as already stated] was the lack of good beer..

In my humble opinion the best beer in town is in the Trades Club, always well kept and yummy..they even have sofas these days!!

From Michelle Foster

Thursday, 3 February 2011

As a non-drinker, I consider a pub's merits/ attractiveness for different reasons. That's why I'm pleased to live in Luddenden - we have The Lord Nelson - very family friendly and the heart of our community.
BTW, for those who are not familiar with the area, the residents of Midgley have their new community centre which provides a convivial atmosphere and a good meeting space (even a bottle of wie or beer thrown in for good measure).

From Sutti H

Thursday, 3 February 2011

I'm affraid you have a different type of person in Hebden now.
Many of the people work for the government in one way or the other. Many built businesses working for the government, they are all on hold with spending.

Many drink wine and not beer anymore, I know it is difficult to believe but they do.

If you ask Mr Whittaker he will tell you it's because people can't smoke in pubs anymore, nowt to do with people not working, beer at £3++ a pint, rents on pubs going through the roof, we all have our opinions.

From Andy M

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Oh dear - I work for the government 'I'm afarid' and drink wine - is it all my fault?

However, I go to local pubs too......

Does this make me a good 'local' or an alcholholic..or both?!

From N Yorke

Thursday, 3 February 2011

'm a big advocate of the pubs in Hebden Bridge and do my best to keep them open, but it's worth considering the large number of places we do have to go for a drink. From memory I recall (sorry if I missed any)

  • 13 Pubs/Bars
  • Moyle's
  • The Railway
  • The Albert
  • B@R Place
  • The White Lion
  • The White Swan
  • The Hole in t' Wall
  • Nelsons Wine Bar
  • The Shoulder of Mutton (currently closed)
  • Marshall's Bar
  • The Inn on the Bridge (currently closed)
  • The Fox and Goose
  • The Stubbing's Wharf

3 Members Clubs

  • The Pennine Club
  • Hebden Bridge Sports and Social Club
  • The Trades Club

Near by (Midgehole,Colden, Heptonstall, Mytholmroyd, Old Town)
At least 7 More

That's a whopping 23 places to go for a pint!! Given that Hebden Bridge only has a population of about 5000, with a further 5000 living in the near by areas it's an amazing ratio. (I tried to get average figures for the UK of the internet but failed).

One idea I have often thought about is having a 'Hebden Bridge Pub Festival' - this would not be about drinking, but about pubs. There is a great range of character (and characters), locations, styles, etc across Hebden Bridge. (Almost) all serve excellent Real Ale and many have great food, some have open fires, some have sport, some have dogs, some have music - a genuinely great mix. We have pubs, clubs, 'locals', bars and boozers (people and places). CAMERA also merit many for their ales too.

So it's time to celebrate what we have here - if you are reading this and haven't been to Hebden Bridge for a pint, do come across, I'll show you around.

From Kathy A

Thursday, 3 February 2011

I think a Hebden Bridge Pub Fest is a great idea. How do we go about doing something proactive to get something organised? The problem we are in danger of running in to is more closures which will eventually see the tourists seek a day trip elsewhere this will then impact on other businesses in the town.

From Emma R

Thursday, 3 February 2011

I too am very sad to see the shoulder shut, I was however out in Hebden on Saturday night and the three of the four places we went were packed. Nelsons, we just got a seat, people eating but lots just drinking, Hole In't wall was so busy (about three deep at the bar) we had to go to the Swan as had tickets for event at the trades.

Trades was heaving too when we got there, so people are out and about on a weekend (this was about 8pm onwards)

I liked the shoulder but always felt it was more of a tourist pub and could lack atmosphere, ran out of Stowford press cider quite a bit too.

From Andrew Hall

Friday, 4 February 2011

N Yorke's suggestion for a Hebden Bridge Beer Festival is excellent and should be pursued by local pub landlords. A template for such a festival can be found at Broughton in the Lake District where several pubs take part in an 'itinerant' beer festival.

Each pub could be responsible for its own bit of such a festival (thus sharing risks/profits) and people could be encouraged to tour round venues through some sort of 'ale trail' incentive.

It could even be coupled with any one of the local music events taking place in town.


From Sutti H

Friday, 4 February 2011

I think the festival idea is great. We are spoilt for good beer in Hebden Bridge so what better than to celebrate the fact.

I know pubs are full on a Saturday evening, but you can't take enough in one night to keep going the rest of the week.

All you have to do is go in our local co-op and see the amount of wine on sale in such a small supermarket. A bottle can be bought for £3+ the same price as a pint but 3 times the strenghth in alcohol, so people are drinking wine with their meal during the week instead of meeting in their local.

They all taste very much the same to me, acid water, ok for cooking.


From N Yorke

Friday, 4 February 2011

My idea is more for a Hebden Bridge 'Pub' Festival as apposed to a Hebden Bridge 'Beer' Festival. (A number of the pubs already run some sort of Beer/Cider festival.)

I love beer festivals - but obviously they are just about the beer. I think a more wider ranging 'Pub' festival is better as it would appeal to a wider audience and of course a 'Beer' element would be an integral part, but just one part.

Ultimately the aim would be to promote Hebden Bridge and it's pubs to encourage people to visit outside of the 'festival'. Festival themes could be;

  • The beers on offer
  • The wines on offer
  • The ciders and perries on offer
  • The specialist non-alcoholic drinks on offer
  • The food/snacks on offer
  • The ambiance on offer
  • The locations on offer (canal side, town centre, back street, basement....)
  • The history on offer (local people, events, happenings', etc)
  • The events on offer (Sport, quizzes, music, open-mic nights, meet the brewer,etc)
  • The walking routes they sit on or are near by
  • The beer gardens
  • The hidden gems and secrets of the Pubs
  • ..you get the idea.

Also a 'Pub' festival would allow people to engage with other aspects of Hebden Bridge while they are here.

Basically over a designated week/weekend all the pubs pull together to show themselves off at their very best, backed up by media advertising, a festival guide, website/facebook page, etc.


From Kevin S

Monday, 7 February 2011

It is a real shame that the two pubs have closed there is a lot of rumours about why, greedy breweries, rent rises, tax problems, cellar problems. But I don,t believe the two pubs will be the only business casualties this year. The footfall through the town during the week is becoming less and less.

Some pubs are busy on a daily / nightly basis but this tends to be the Railway / Sports / Swan /Albert where local people who were born and bred here can walk in alone enjoy good ales and have familiar faces to talk with.

Others come to Hebden and see the footfall from the tourists over the weekends and assume its like this all the time. Unfortunately it's not.
Visitors to the town only have so much money in there pockets for a day out, and if its sunday dinner at £8.95 + 70p extra for a yorkshire pudding (which should be part of the meal) in a pub or £2.50 for a hot roast beef sandwich to sit in the square, from one of the many deli's or cafes, what do most choose?

From Phil M

Monday, 7 February 2011

I think a festival that celebrates every element of the pub and every element of pubs in the Hebden valley is a great idea and should definitely happen!!

Theres too many people whinging about how we all love Tescos and Xfactor or that tourism has killed out town. (eh?) I see a still very vibrant town, with the best small gig venue in the north of England, with cracking eateries, pubs and amazing little shops. It's a great place, therefore people want to come enjoy it from other places, not rocket science really and not something to be seen as evil.

Bring on the pub festival, I'll be there for sure!

From Paul D

Monday, 7 February 2011


I think this point about a decline in tourism and also the earlier comparison between the different ventures in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge are really important.

Only one of these towns has prostituded itself to the tourist pound over the last 10-15 years. The other has focused on meeting the needs of those who live there. Tourist income, whilst welcome in Tod, is more incidental - here it's essential. Tourism has not only distorted our economy, it's displaced it too, there are fewer pubs where you can seek familiar faces, and costs have indeed increased out of proportion with local income -most people will not choose to drink with strangers every afternoon or evening, they'll go elsewhere. The whole town centre economy is distorted, rents are grossly inflated and profits put under pressure. Hence the rise in low paid, part time even seasonal work and proliferation of shops where costs are reduced by voluntary staffing (charity shops). It was so obvioulsy going to go pear shaped come the next recession and now it is doing everyone appears to be surprised.

The solution should not be a festival of pubs based on attracting more of the destructive capacities of tourism but more specialist, locally grounded and regenerational events. Tourism if left unchecked will hollow out the town centre - and nobody wants to restrict it and most think it's the only show in town. The great town for small shops type thinking has been an absolute distaster. It is a great town, for all the people who live here, and for those who come to enjoy it, we should start from there and build on that. But we've become a bit of a goldfish bowl - somebody else's cheap day out. Our culture has been diminished and not many seem to really care about that. We can drink our way out of it though - which is nice.

From Tom C

Friday, 11 February 2011

I have worked in pubs in Hebden Bridge since the age of 16 years old, 8 years now! and have thoroughly enjoyed every last little bit of it. It is almost definitely a thriving seasonal town, with the summer bringing a fantastic, lively and colorful atmosphere with a massive community spirit.

Christmas time is equally as exiting with the picturesque backdrop to die for, followed by New Years Eve - a top quality celebration! This is sadly followed by the early months of the year, a time when all local businesses struggle for trade.

The closure of certain local pubs has almost definitely has nothing to do with the way they are being run. The ever increasing rent, rates and beer prices are almost impossible to keep up with in the present climate for certain leaseholders/tenants or managers. This is not just a local problem as I'm sure everybody knows. It is a National catastrophy led purely by the Government! So please spare a thought for those that have put so much effort into providing a high quality of service, an atmosphere that our town should be proud of and last but not least a contribution to an outstanding heritage!

From Jillian T

Monday, 14 February 2011

Hopefully somebody will convert The Inn on the Bridge back into the lovley houses they used to be.

From Paul D

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Tom's points are part of my concerns, we have become a 'thriving seasonal town' by default, the distortion to the local economy is significant and dangerous, but the erosion of our identity and local culture may be irreparable. Tourists come here to 'do' Hebden, attracted by our 'quirky' reputation and possibly hoping to snigger at women holding hands in the streets.

The culture they come to consume was built here, the hippies built on centuries of religious and political non-conformity, Poles who fought in the free forces settled here, remnants of the battle of the beanfield nursed their injuries here, various sects and non-conformist groups found space to think here. By and large we've always been a tolerant community, i.e. the 'funky' little town tag is simply a clumsy way to describe an oasis of tolerance in a sea of bland conformity. So where Hebden Bridge may have become economically dependent on tourism, our culture has nothing at all to do with tourism.

The sad thing is the pressure on tenanted pubs, often as these pubs become more successful the brewery increases the charge per barrel, or the rent, so serving good food, making good profits, running a good pub, can simply lead to increased charges and less profit. The more successful you are the more the brewery takes as a cut, effectively penalising good tenants. Again I think tourism is part of this trend especially in the town centre as it distorts takings and makes the 'quiet' period (often when VAT or other payments are due for the 'busy' period) very dangerous. A more reliable income stream might mean lower profits, but be a more sustainable business.

I'm not anti-tourist just pro-Hebden Bridge, not the town we see now, flashing its knickers for a cone of chips, but the vibrant, creative and fluid town those tourists come to enjoy. I just think the balance is all wrong, but clearly if we do want to support local pubs with events they should be held in January-March, before the pavement gurners come back with their much needed gold.


From Justin P (Hole in t'Wall)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Another Friday ... another set of tumbleweed statistics for the Hebden pub trade....i totally agree with paul, he gets the sentiment totally...our sales in Tod have outshone Hebden consistently for 3 weeks now, and now i'm noticing the regulars from hebden going out for a beer and something to eat in sunny Tod,

The consensus is that Hebden is a "bit rough now, with under age drinkers spoiling for a fight, violence and that...", I know it happens but this view is contrived and exagerated beyond belief

So all is not well...in funkysville..

Can some one please chuck some short term suggestions at us to help us and the other publicans... please don't suggest a festival of beer... be honest with us, have we done something sooo wrong that we have missed it, what needs doing to generate interest and footfall.

The tourist pound isn't being spent on food and beer - as already suggested, decembers weather didn't help, beer is expensive, but we have good local producers providing quality beer and food how can we resurrect hebdens pubs...

Oh and by the way i spoke with some surveyors looking for a location for a major supermarket chain so they can retail in hebden on monday...joy oh joy


From Jenny B

Monday, 21 February 2011

I really feel for the landlords like Justin who are prepared to invest so much in their pubs to attract footfall.

You get the old arguments e.g. Locals think they are only trying to attract tourists, those of us past our teens, think the pubs are full of under-age drinkers, and the middle-aged think Hebden is too rough.
Now that the old spit and sawdust pubs have gone, and even the blazing log fire and a locally brewed ale is old hat, as Justin says - What can they do to get us in their pubs?

Although I refer to pubs, I do mean all of the pubs/bars/clubs so here goes:

As a 30 something non-smoker, with a full-time job and young children, my nights out are an irregular type of 'luxury'and tend to be for something special, rather than a stroll to the local. I would say that overall, I want a nice clean warm pub, with somewhere to sit, reasonable lighting and a bit of un-intrusive background music (live or piped), with the prospect of it livening up later.

I don't want to have to shout over the music to converse with friends, nor sit within earshot groups of foul mouthed youngsters. I don't want to cope with toddlers running round when I have left mine at home, nor to come out of the pub smelling of skunk weed (at least the smoking used to camouflage some of that), and I don't want to pay £19 for a bottle of red that I know is around £8 at Tesco. Since all of these happened on a recent night out in Hebden (not all in one pub I hasten to add), to me, those are valid reasons for me to be put off going out in Hebden.

There are pubs I wouldn't set foot in (too rough), pubs I like, but the prices for food/drink are vastly inflated, and pubs I love. Some pubs I go to for music, others for chilling time. What I do realise and appreciate is that currently I have a lot of choice. However, if the pubs I saw as 'good pubs' (The Shoulder) can't keep going then that choice will soon be lost. Because I don't have a lot of money, if beer/wine was cheaper, then yes, overall I would come out more. For me " Use 'em or lose 'em" is a great principle, but the cost is the major deciding factor in restricting my usage.
Can landlords so anything about that or not?

From Em F

Monday, 21 February 2011

I'm really surprised that the Hole is struggling so. Isn't it just 'that time of year' when there are few tourists and local folk are hibernating? I'm sure the current financial climate won't help but... I was out on Friday night and it took a while to find a pub empty enough to fit 8 of us in. We didn't even try the Hole because almost every time I'd been in previously it was too packed and/or too noisy to sit down and have a quiet chat. Maybe that's changed recently? If so, I'll start going in again!

When the Hole first opened (revamped) I thought it was great - but in my experience it quickly became so popular and so band-oriented that I disappointedly began avoiding it (couldn't get a seat, couldn't hear myself think). So... I don't know, but perhaps a quieter pub will now begin to attract a slightly different clientele. Spread the rumour that it's safe to go again! And no, I don't want a big supermarket and will join any protest against one.

(slightly silly suggestion: you could start buying up the co-op's £3 bottles of wine and sell it at £1.50 a glass - make a profit and make the wine drinkers who like pubs very happy!!!)

From Paul D

Monday, 21 February 2011

One way to bring in a bit of trade might be to do a promotion that chimes with the current mood of austerity and draws on local nostalgia. For example, you could do a 'stew and hard' night - stew for two with a jug of beer for ten quid. The hard is supposed to be stale bread, but for modern foods hygiene reasons this might have to be a fresh rough cut doorstep (no butter).

People also get fed up with winter at this time so a local green man event might be worth considering, not a full on pagan festival, but a drink into spring type family weekend with a band or two thrown in (preferably playing off the back of a lorry outside if that' still possible).

From Glyn Hughes

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

All that a good pub needs is good draught beer sold at the correct temperature (blood-heat, not chilled) good food (not frozen junk brought in a van) at a reasonable price, and relief from piped music. I know only 3 or 4 pubs within 30 miles of this kind ..... and they are always packed.

From David Woodhead

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Re: The Hole in the Wall. Isn`t it about time you took the sign down that states "Open All Day" and the Vaux sign ! When did the Vaux Brewery close ? you are advertising something you do not do (you`re not open all day) and you don`t have any Vaux Beers

From John G

Thursday, 24 February 2011

I find it interesting that the pubs that have closed or finding it hard to stay open are the ones that spent a lot of money on posh leather sofas and chairs. They also do not have darts and doms teams, football teams ,pool teams. To sum up I think they just cater for people who go out for a drink, and in most cases it is one drink to last all night.

From Tony P

Friday, 25 February 2011

I read with interest the posts on this thread. It is true that many factors have affected the hospitality sector. Until recently, 52 pubs a week were closing nationally, down to 25 per week currently.

The smoking ban certainly had a big impact, and the relentless reduction in prices at the supermarket are a major problem.

Isn't it also interesting that when you go into a restaurant, you pay extortionate prices for alcohol and when you go to a pub, what they really want to sell you is food! This shows the nature of the profit being made at each type of establishment.

So, why do pubs like the Shoulder close?

For one, it is true that there are many pubs in Hebden, and in these times of austerity, something has to give. The two that have closed are 2 of the largest in town with, one would expect, the highest running costs.

Since Q4 2008, we have seen a marked decline in revenue in the pub. During the same period, we have seen a marked increase in operating costs. Fuel rises and supplier increases have squeezed margins significantly. Poor summers have a major impact on the sustainability of the businesses. The recession has hit hard. Pub rent rises with RPI annually, regardless of trade conditions. The increase in business rates has had an impact, adding some ?6,000 per year to the bill at a time when revenue is falling drastically.

An example - a normal Sunday trading during food hours in the Shoulder would see around 160 covers going out of the kitchen. From Q4 2008, this dropped to around 50 to 60 covers.

The Shoulder has always tried to cater for the local population, never the tourist, contrary to assertions otherwise. The idea was a family friendly environment where people could come and sit, chat and enjoy each other's company. I hope that in the most part, this was achieved. There should be a variety of pub types in a community, from the relaxed, family pub to the live music venues to the more traditional pub with the darts, pool, dominoes teams etc.

I note someone mentioned running out of Stowford Press - I don't recall serving that for about 3 years! Perhaps this is why we shut if that is the last time you visited the pub..

One of the signs of hardship is poor availability of beer. What usually happens in a PubCo owned pub is that you get 2 weeks credit for beer purchases - this gives you time to sell the beer before you have to pay for it, helping cashflow. When you hit hardship, one of the first things that happens is your PubCo puts you on 'cash with order' - so now, you are in a position of reduced trade but you have to pay for the beer before you get it. This invariably means that you can't afford to stock a full range, and what you do get, you only get a small amount. This simply compounds an already difficult situation, as it alienates the customer (because every time they come in they see lines that are off) and makes your job all the more difficult. It is usually the beginning of the end.

In terms of running costs, a pub like the Shoulder would be paying wages of up to ?90,000 to local people to spend in the local economy at its peak. Electricity costs were around ?1,500 per month. And here is another problem ? rent.

When a PubCo like ours calculates your rent, they use something called 'divisible balance' and base turnover on 'fair maintainable trade (FMT)'. FMT is a hypothetical figure that is meant to represent the level of turnover a 'competent operator' should be able to achieve in the area. In reality, it is a figure picked out of the sky to advantage the 'negotiations' of the PubCo. The divisible balance is the amount of profit the pub makes per year. The PubCo look at this and divide it by 2 ? 50% is the rent, 50% is yours. Here's the catch ? when the PubCo calculates divisible balance, the do not include any costs for you working in the business. So, if you worked full time (which in a pub is about 72 hours per week), and you took say ?20,000 as your wage (less than minimum wage), then the PubCo would not deduct this form their calculations ? so of the 50% of the divisible balance you kept, in actual fact, ?20,000 of that are your wages! The effect is the PubCo gets 50% of your salary in rent! This is one of the reasons why PubCo pubs deteriorate so much ? there is no money left for investment into the business. Along with this, licensees like us at the Shoulder have what is known as 'fully repairing leases' ? meaning we are wholly responsible for the upkeep of the building and all the compliance issues around running the business ? so the PubCo's get to take most of your money and make you fix their property.

Then comes the sting. The so-called 'wet rent'. Our pub, like many others, has beer monitoring equipment ? so the PubCo can tell how many half-pints you have dispensed. They match this to what you have ordered, and if they don't match, they want to know why and/or fine you. This is to ensure you don't 'buy out' ? meaning buy from a source other than the PubCo (because they make so much money from you buying from them).

Why? Well, because in PubCo pubs like the Shoulder, you pay almost 100% more for your beer than non-PubCo pubs. As an example, we sold Stella, after the VAT increase for ?3.55. You may say that is robbery. What I would say is that Stella cost us ?312.72 (excluding VAT) for 176 pints (22 gallons). That equates to ?1.78 per pint (again, without VAT). Selling at ?3.55 (including VAT) would make the business a Gross Profit of 39.93%. To put this into context, for every 22 gallons of Stella we bought, we would pay HMRC ?41.57 and would have to find another ?104.85 from other sources to replace the keg.

A freehouse would pay around ?190 for the same product. This puts cost price at ?1.20. One could reduce the selling price to ?2.90 per pint, yet still make 50% gross profit. This is how things SHOULD be ? but the fact is they are not. So, if you go into a freehouse and they are charging tied-house prices, they are making a lot of profit!

The true fact of the decline in volume of people coming into pubs like ours is simple ? over the previous 2 years, the Shoulder has seen a drop in revenue per year of over ?100,000. If you earned ?20,000 salary, and someone took ?5,000 off you, how would you cope?

We have spoken to a number of other licencees locally, and many are desperate ? they are hanging on through sheer desperation ? it is not a good state of affairs.

The sad thing is that the PubCo will now put a manager in charge of the pub just to keep it open, who will pay next to no rent and get massive discounts on beer prices ? called a TAW. This will make it much more viable ? until they get a licensee in who signs a contract, when things will revert to normal, with a steady decline over time until they are leaving and the cycle starts again ? the trade calls this 'churn'. The Inn was operated on TAW, but when the lease was signed, it ended up closing because as a business running on that PubCo's standard terms, it was not viable. I believe that the Hole also operates in a similar manner ? and if they have these concessions yet struggle to remain viable, what hope is there for the general population of Pubs in the town?

If this is the face of a changing demographic in Hebden, then there is little to be done other than to see what is left at the other side. For our part, all we hope is that for the 8 years we were at the Shoulder, we turned it around and made it an important part of the community, and we hope that all our customers enjoyed a decent pint, decent food in an environment that was good for them ? and we sincerely hope that whatever happens, this focus remains ? it would be a catastrophe if the Shoulder was taken over by someone that didn't care ? a poorly run Shoulder, more than any other pub in the town, could have a serious impact on the al-fresco caf? culture vibe ? 30 beer-swilling yob shouting profanities outside the pub in the heart of the town would be a serious problem. I really hope it never comes to that.

Thanks to everyone that supported Cath, Hollie and the team at the Shoulder - we wish you all the best.


From Em F

Monday, 28 February 2011

Going out for a drink tonight and was wondering where to go...
Realised I like to know whether a pub's going to be open and what will be going on in it before I turn up.

So websites might be a good idea, especially if you're a pub that has diversified / played around with opening hours / serves food / hosts events.

I thought Hole Int' Wall would have a website... and it does but has almost no content and hasn't been updated. If the Hole did have a website I'd know whether there was a band/activity on that I wanted to attend or avoid; and I'd know whether they were serving food tonight. That info would help me decide whether to go or not. And while I was checking out the website about tonight... I might spot something coming up that I wanted to go to in the future.

And... on the website could be a place to register for an email newsletter, which could go out once a month to interested parties, letting them know what's going on and enticing them in.

You might think pubs that're struggling financially can't afford a website... but it's not difficult or expensive to set up a simple one and even easier to add content once one's been set up. A pub owner/manager desperate to increase business might think it'd be worth putting the effort in...?

From H Gregg

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Well done Em F - best suggestion by a very, very, very long way - use the technology! Updates on your iPhone/Blackberry, RSS feeds, Facebook whatever. HB is famous for ideas like this (Hebweb 1st community website in UK!). Demographics have changed (WETFTM), habits and needs have changed. You're right, its not difficult to set up a website and keep it current. It would beat the HB Times into a cocked hat (does anyone remember cocked hats?) when looking for something to do in the village! Every business in HB could benefit from this. Brill! Talk to Hebweb Chris about this - he helped me in the early days of t'internet.

From Sarah Long

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Absolutely second/third the call to make more use of technology. It doesn't take much in the way of time or money to set up blog / twitter / facebook type stuff. It builds a community and keeps people informed.

I love Hebden, and I love (most of) its pubs - me and the other half try to frequent them as much as we can, but there's only so much the wallet and the liver can handle.

That being said, what advice could I offer pubs on how to get me there on nights I wouldn't usually go out (work nights generally).
Food, themed nights, films, comedy maybe. I don't mind gigs but as others have said, in confined spaces they can be a bit overpowering. Quizes, games nights, opportunities to learn things and/or get to know new people. I've only lived in Hebden a couple of years, and still don't know too many people to talk to, if I knew more people I'd maybe go out more. Places to sit outside when the weather's dry (such a shame the tables out the front of the Hole never came back - but I know it was down to pointless costs)

Wifi - I often like to go work in a pub if I can during the day, in a place like Hebden this might be something good to advertise a service to, ditto somewhere comfy to read with a pint, or even do your knitting.

And - another point which is perhaps relevant to others as well as me - start things a bit earlier. If a lot of people here are commuting to Leeds and Manchester (much as we'd love to work locally) - then they'll be up early and maybe can't hack staying out till half eleven and then having to get home maybe to Heptonstall or Old Town etc. I go to my local (Hare and Hounds) quiz occasionally, which doesn't start until after nine, and even there it's a late night when I've only a few hundred yards to stagger home. So something at say, 7, or half 7 would really appeal. And a decent selection of non-alcohol, warm, and diet drinks will help those not on the booze for a variety of reasons.

The only times I avoid a pub it's generally to do with clientele, not the landlord/lady. Or maybe if there's sport on or it's too full. I love the Trades to play pool or have a chat, Nelson's for a romantic evening, the Hole for pretty much most days, the Fox and Goose for it's individuality and authenticity and range - I could pick something about most places. But I already drink too much so the question must be how to get more moderate drinkers out drinking moderately.

Good luck - and if anyone wants me to sort out their twitter etc., give me a shout.

From Jenny B

Sunday, 6 March 2011

I have heard a rumour that the 'new' landlord of the White Lion is considering taking over the Shoulder. Please say this is not true. See Trip Advisor for impartial reviews.

Having read these myself, I can see our reputation as a friendly town going down the pan.

From Em F

Monday, 7 March 2011

Weird, I went in the Lion for the 1st time in ages last night and found all the staff and manager to be very friendly and the food was fab! Checked out the reviews as you recommended and was inspired to add my own saying what a good experience I'd had becos I felt really sorry for the guy!

...but what would happen to the Lion if he took over the Shoulder?


From Mark Hewitson

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I was really sad to see both the Inn on the Bridge and the Shoulder close, very different to be in but both run to provide great places to go.

We've had a place in Hebden for about 4 years now and when we're not there we do some holiday letting. We've always recommended places to go to get a good pint or a meal or to simply chill out and watch the world go by and the people who have stayed at our place have all loved Hebden and it's shops and pubs, the Shoulder in particular (which was our kids' favourite place though mostly for the food given their ages).

I don't have any clever suggestions or answers to the general problem we have in Hebden, the economy, visitor numbers etc however I do think the Shoulder was well run and provided a very easy and friendly place to spend time in and I hope someone can take it on and make it work. There are other places I really like having a pint in such as the Hole but from a purely commercial perspective I think Hebden does need a vibrant and thriving pub in the square.

At the same time there are better solutions to simply boarding up pubs like the Inn with plain metal sheeting. Given the artistic talents of the place couldn't we get local artists to paint the shutters so they are at least not an eyesore that is off putting to tourists, passing trade and residents. I've seen this used in other places and it makes a difference. Any volunteers (sorry I'm rubbish at painting)?


From Katy E

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

As a frequent visitor to Hebden, I think its a fantastic idea to have web pages or other 'social' networking tools for all pubs / bars / cafes etc. I often check 'what's on' to see if its worth popping up for (bearing in mind I live in the South) and often there are local events and activities that are going on that aren't advertised.

Its such a shame to see the metal shutters up and in such a prominent place. Its also a shame that so many shops seem to disapear - every time we visit another shop has disappeared and another reappeared. I'm told that greedy landlords have made it very difficult.

Hebden place is like no other, a wonderful little town that I never ever tire of, a great community and so much happening - I'm jelaous not to be there all the time! N.B. I like beer as well as wine and loathe the X factor :)

N.B. Thanks for posting the trip advisor links, very interesting!!!

From Charles Gate

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The British Beer and Pub Association publishes a survey on pub closures that puts the number at 1,275 in the last year.

From N Yorke

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Shoulder is opening again on Friday, not sure of the details, but I guess it's under new management. Lets all get there for a pint.

From David Wilson

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

N Yorke; I agree, there is a band on friday evening for the opening night, lets try and give them a good welcome and a good start to recovering some of the expense they will have already faced!

It really is quite simple, every local pub needs support, particularly at quieter times of the year. We've got some great long weekends coming up- think of your local when making plans, use it or lose it!

From Kathy A

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Great News to hear Shoulder re-opening. We will be there.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Hang on - how about re-reading Tony P's excellent post of 25 February? Based on his own experience, his speculation was that the Shoulder would be reopened under direct pubco management, with the aim of suckering a new landlord in and starting the cycle of high prices and exploitation all over again. If this is what is now happening, we should be boycotting the Shoulder, not piling in through its doors.

Martin F

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Whether I or my friends go into the 'new' Shoulder will depend on whether it has the attributes mentioned by Glyn Hughes (February 22) - mainly good beer at the correct temperature, NOT chilled because it is pumped from the same place as the lager.

As beer heads towards £3 a pint that is an absolute essentials for us.

If it is to be run by a PubCo, I have my doubts.

From Tony P

Monday, 28 March 2011

Martin F, the beer from the cellar in the Shoulder is not pumped via the python, and thus is dispensed at the cellar temparature, which is, on average, 13 degrees celcius. This of course varies with time of year - specifically when the outside temperature is below 13 degrees (as it can be cooled when warmer).

Thus, you should always get a pint that is at the right temperature.

Non-beer dispense have their own bar coolers to reduce temparature to below cellar temperature as per the brewers guidelines (usually around 4 degrees).

Also, we used to clean each beer line every time we changed a beer, ensuring the line was as clean as it could be thus not affecting the taste.

The fantastic quality of the beer at the Shoulder at the time (I cannot say how things are now or will be in the future) is something that Cask Marque agreed with us about when they gave us the quality award for the beer.

Hopefully the beer in the Shoulder will continue to attract the compliments it used to, and the attention to detail in the beer dispense will remain.

From Martin F

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tony P, Thanks for the info. My friends and I agree that warm lager (as I remember the last time I drank it) and cold beer are both undrinkable and won't go anywhere the latter is sold - which is why, on our only visit to a particular hostelry in town (some time ago), not The Shoulder, we agreed that we would not be going there again.


From John V

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Thought I'd chuck my cap in the ring re: Pub Closures.

I used to be a beer drinker. I was out in my local 4 or 5 nights a week and maybe an afternoon or tea time at weekend. The idea was that you got together with a couple of similarly inclined mates, leaned on the bar and talked complete tosh for 2 or 3 hours each session.

All we required was the juke box was kept low, there was no running up and down with plates of obnoxious food, kids were kept well and truly off the premises and somebody behind the bar emptied the ashtray every hour or so.

Life was grand. As far as I was concerned it was 3 or 4 hundred pounds a month well spent.

Then people got greedy and the price of beer began its' meteoric rise. Then most pubs started serving 'meals'. Then, quite unbelievably, someone said smoking in pubs should be banned. Then people said pubs should become the centre of village life and visits would be 'a family experience'.

Then pubs began closing.

Then I stopped drinking - and smoking.

Pubs today? Not worth a candle.

From Phil M

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Popped into the Shoulder this week on way back from work, looks broadly similar. They have lost the sofas on the right as you walk in which opens up that space. Beer was Shropshire Gold, nice 3.8% light ale. Can't remember the price but it weren't cheap..

Good to see it back tho..

I agree with the Lion comment made too, nice place, good food and good well served ale..

See also

HebWeb News 2002 - The Nutclough, Top Shoulder and The Mount Skip